Our second walk around Hobart was at the end of our time in Tasmania and the weather had changed, snow had descended on Mt Wellington and rain started to fall in Hobart Town. The first port of call that we didn’t make after we left the docks area was at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. We didn’t have a lot of time in our day and I knew I wanted to explore it properly without time pressures. It was put on the wish list for our next trip to Tassie. For anyone needing relevant info about this impressive institution, here is the website.
There is an argument to be made that a grand park in the centre of any city in the world tells the visitor a lot about the history of the city and the values that the city council holds as important about their urban landscape. Such a park we encountered as we continued up Davey Street and turned right at Elizabeth Street to inspect Franklin Square, an oasis of greenery between the dock area of town and the business centre of Hobart. This hill would have originally overlooked the busy harbour of Hobart Town and the land on which Franklin Square sits today was set aside for civic purposes by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. The first Government House was built here and was also a place for mustering convicts to be sure that none had escaped. It became a public park in the late 1850s. Apart from the many trees, the most significant installation in the park is a statue to a Tasmanian Hero, Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), a lieutenant Governor of Tasmania who went on to become a famous navigator attempting to find the North-West Passage into the Artic circle above Canada. His statue was set up in the late 1860s and is surrounded by a large fountain. It can be seen standing in the centre of the square in the 1879 drawing of Hobart below. It is unsurprising that the locals decided that the centre of their main city park should be given over to this famous Artic Explorer who died on his last expedition, his two ships stuck in the ice, in 1847. The fate of Franklin and his ships remained a mystery until the 21st century when underwater archaeologist found his two ships in ‘pristine’ condition in the cold waters of the Adelaide Peninsula in Northern Canada.
Sir John Franklin spent six years in Tasmania as Lieutenant Governor from 1837 to 1843. Even the famous Romantic poet, Alfered Lord Tennyson wrote his epitaph which is inscribed on this monument.
Not here! The white north hath thy bones and thou
Heroic sailor soul
Art passing on thine happier voyage now
Toward no earthly pole
There are two other statues of significant figures in Hobart’s story that history hasn’t been as kind to as for Sir John Franklin. The life of Edward VII (on left below) has quite the similarity with the life of the current Prince of Wales. Both princes spent over 60 years in the shadow of their mothers, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II. Edward VII (Bertie) always had a reputation as the playboy Prince who lived the highlife while his dutiful mother attempted to keep the empire together. It is true, however, that he was known as the ‘Peacemaker’ during his reign for his continuous attempts to cultivate good relationships within Europe. He was not to realise the full ambitions of Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and what would happen to his many relatives in Europe in 1914-18 after his death in 1910.
William Crowther (1817-1885) is one of those difficult characters that history hasn’t been as positive about as many of his contemporaries were. He was a Tasmanian politician who was also a medical doctor and a prominent businessman. He was Premier of Tasmania for 9 months in 1879. Wikipedia summarises the issues succinctly. “His career…overshadowed by his role in the mutilation of the body of William Lanne, the last male Aboriginal Tasmanian”. When we visited Bruny Island, we came across the story of Truganini and how her last wishes for the disposal of her body were meant to be carried out but they were ignored by colonial officials. In the case of William Lanne, Crowther was accused of removing Lane’s head and sending it to the Royal College of Surgeons in London as happened with parts of Truganini’s body. Controversy over the presence of Crowther’s statue in this central park in Hobart has broken out in the 21st century, indicated by the sign underneath his statue (to the right).
From Franklin Square we walked across Macquarie Street, had a quick look at the Hobart GPO and then strolled further up the street to have a look at yet another Stephen Walker sculpture, placed in a niche next to 111 Macquarie Street. Up until this trip to Hobart, I had not been aware of the significant stature of this Australian sculptor. Already in our time in Hobart we had seen three impressive sculptures of his in the dock area of the city…
- The sculptures in memory of the work of Louis Bernacchi and James Ross in Antarctica.
- The memorial to Abel Tasman
- The Salamanca Square sculpture memorialising the Dutch, British and French Explorers who encountered van Diemans Land in the 17/18th centuries.
His sculpture on Macquarie Street from 1994 appears to be from his Antarctica period, including the wildlife of the frozen continent as well as remnants of early European explorers.
Continuing up Macquarie Street to the corner, we found ourselves outside St David’s Cathedral which is the principal Anglican church in Tasmania. The first St David’s church was built in 1826 and a drawing from the time can be seen on the right. The current building began being constructed in 1868. It is part of a city block of buildings in Hobart that some consider the finest Georgian Streetscape in Australia. The 1879 drawing of Hobart used earlier in this article indicates the significant presence of St David’s on the corner of Macquarie and Murray Streets.
We had a good stroll of inspection around both the inside and outside of this impressive church. I was also fascinated by the poster the church had placed up on a number of sites around the cathedral, depicting ‘contemporary information sources concerning the big life questions’ as an overfilled hamburger. In a period of Australian history where Church affiliation is being questioned, I was impressed that this community wanted to provide some alternative answers. I noted on their website that the basic teachings of this church were centred on the following values…
“peace, justice, freedom of the oppressed, relief from poverty, good stewardship of the creation and the value of life”. I wished them luck in combating the fast food of modern misinformation.
One of the themes of my strolling around Hobart was trying to track down any memories of my few days here in January 1979. One of the sites that I was sure I remembered was a place called the Cat and Fiddle Arcade. I knew it was part of a shopping mall and I had the idea that it housed a display of the nursery rhyme characters playing a fiddle and jumping over the moon, all presented in neon lights. On our first afternoon, I took the photo on the left below which was my first confirmation that such a place existed. A quick survey of the area alas found me no cat and fiddle neon signage.
On the last rainy morning in Hobart, I took another walk in the area and this time ventured into the heart of darkness that was the relevant shopping centre. Somewhere in the middle of the centre I found the cat, the fiddle and the moon on a high wall above a café, but unfortunately no neon lights. I was very pleased that my nursery rhyme memory of Hobart was not a false memory, just a little altered from the original remnant deteriorating in the back of my ageing mind.
APPENDIX 1: The Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens